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Posted on Thursday, September 09 - 2004

" The image of dinosaurs as brutes that ignored their young — that is, when they didn't devour them — may have to be replaced by something rather Disneyesque. A new study says astonishing fossils found in the world's finest trove of dinosaur remains are the first solid proof that som..."

The image of dinosaurs as brutes that ignored their young — that is, when they didn't devour them — may have to be replaced by something rather Disneyesque. A new study says astonishing fossils found in the world's finest trove of dinosaur remains are the first solid proof that some dinos were doting parents. The evidence comes in the form of 34 young Psittacosaurus dinosaurs found huddled at the feet of an adult, clustered in a space just 0.5 square meter (5.5 square feet) as the group faced some unnameable but mortal threat. The U.S.-Chinese palaeontologists, led by David Varricchio of Montana State University, say the adult'sprotective posture is "compelling evidence" that dinosaurs looked carefully after their young.

How the group died is unclear, although all of its members were found standing upright, which suggests that death was almost instantaneous. The cause could have been a Pompeii-like cloud of suffocating gas and dust from a volcanic eruption, entrapment in an underground burrow that collapsed, or perhaps a sudden, dramatic flooding of their nest. The Psittacosaurus, named "parrot-lizard" because of its strong parrot-like beak, was a relatively small, plant-eating dinosaur that lived during the early Cretaceous period about 119-97.5 million years ago. It had strong back legs and two smaller front legs, and could eitherstand up to reach for vegetation or run on all fours to race away from predators. The creature measured 80 centimeters to two meters (2.6-6.5 feet) in length, stood about 1.2 meters (four feet) in height, and weighed between 25 and 80 kilo (58-176 pounds). Birds, believed to be descendants of the dinosaurs, are well-known for their parental care. But until now only incidental evidence has been found that dinosaurs were good parents, too. This has come, for example, from bone beds where the remains of adult and young dinosaurs were found together. The big find came from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation in Liaoning, Northeastern China, which has yielded scores of stunning fossils, including feathered specimens that point to thetheoretical. ...

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